CFAs may think Newfie jokes are funny, but columnist is not laughing

Bill Westcott
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Let's take a stand against that goofy Newfy handle!

I am tired of CFAs looking at us as those cutchy-cutchy coo folks from way down east.

If you are a regular reader of this column no doubt you are aware that the term goofy Newfie is quite offensive to me. I have extrapolated on my point (s) of view a number of times since I began writing these Scribblings back a few years ago.

I abhor Newfie jokes and never ever listen to them, read them or tell them. It is time for us to take a collective stand against all that derogatory insulting crap.

Scribblings of a Corner Boy -

Let's take a stand against that goofy Newfy handle!

I am tired of CFAs looking at us as those cutchy-cutchy coo folks from way down east.

If you are a regular reader of this column no doubt you are aware that the term goofy Newfie is quite offensive to me. I have extrapolated on my point (s) of view a number of times since I began writing these Scribblings back a few years ago.

I abhor Newfie jokes and never ever listen to them, read them or tell them. It is time for us to take a collective stand against all that derogatory insulting crap.

I have been criticized, laughed at, jeered, poked in the ribs, told to loosen up and accused of telling them myself. To that I say, horse manure!

I will not even blink at anything sent my way including saucy e-mails. Standing up against this never ending insult to me and my province and our people is worth all of it. How any other self respecting Newfoundlander can say any less boggles my mind.

A recent event got my dander up again. It happened when I attended a concert at the prestigious Lakeland Centre in Florida. The show featured country mega-star Crystal Gayle, with the incredible Larry Gatlin, member of the Gatlin Brothers troupe, and a well-known up and coming tenor from New York via Ireland, Andy Cooney.

Following Cooney's magnificent standing ovation performance he was greeting concertgoers in the foyer of the Lakeland Centre. When we got the opportunity, we made our way through the worshipping fans to see if we could get him to autograph his new CD we had purchased.

I asked him if he had ever been to Newfoundland?

He said he came quite close one time but things didn't materialize at the last minute for him to make it. "But," he said, "I absolutely have it on my list and boy am I anxious to get out there to that part of Canada. I'm aware it's rich in Celtic music and song- I heard the fabulous Irish Descendants troupe and they are absolutely fabulous."

Then he blurted out with a firm handshake, "so you're goofy Newfies! It is so nice to meet you guys."

Before I had a chance to say something, he turned to other people in line for his autograph.

I am absolutely sure Cooney did not mean to insult us. Why would he?

The point I am making here is just how far this goofy Newfie moniker has gone around the world. I found it hard to believe. It is found on the lips of people from just about every walk of life, from singers to politicians and more other types than I care to speculate.

Down on the rock

What would be the reaction if we called residents of Quebec frogs? What If we called residents of Nova Scotia herring chokers? How would it sound ff we called residents of P.E.I. spuds. And how would we be welcome in Alberta if we call them cowpokes?

There are some who like to patronize us when they hear we are from Newfoundland. How come youse guys talk so fast? Did you bring any screech with you? Hear ye like the beer and seals down there? We've been to the island and I was screeched in once when we were on the rock!

I have experienced so many nauseating situations in my travels, especially since I retired. During the winter, despite my known dislike, a local entertainer who performs at concerts here in our park in Zephyrhills, Florida made a regular point to play a song, "especially for the Newfies here." He usually performs The little boats of Newfoundland.

That is a pure case of patronizing a very small group. We usually number about 10-20 from the usual full house of about 250 or more. We are singled out as that cute and cuddly bunch of partygoers and screech-drinking Canadians who are so different!

To add insult to injury the entertainer hails from Cape Breton. The only song he includes from that area of course is Anne Murray's international hit, Snowbird.

I was in a Toronto hotel and went down to breakfast in the hotel dining room. I was standing in a line-up with other people from various parts of Canada even the world perhaps. The chef was listening to me chatting with the guys next to me.

"Hey, you must be a Newfie are you?" he shouted from the kitchen. "I recognize the accent. Got any jokes to tell us he asked? "I love Newfie jokes."

No, I don't," I replied. "I don't tell them. And by the way I am a Newfoundlander not a Newfie," I said. He simply chuckled at me and went back flipping eggs looking rather sheepish I felt.


Sometime ago Premier Danny Williams mentioned in an interview on CBC that he finds those Newfie jokes offensive and he said he dislikes screech-in ceremonies. My wish is that the premier would outlaw them.

That ceremony, in my opinion, is the lowest form of entertainment our province can inflict on our culture and history as a people. To have visitors from far and wide dress in oilskins, drink a cheap under developed rum, swish originally exported from Jamaica, kiss a cod fish and recite in what they call Newfinese old and archaic colloquialisms not heard in our province anymore.

I never liked that ceremony. When I worked in public relations for the CBC I witnessed members of a highly-rated national network program suffer through that so called cutesy ceremony at a reception held in their honour during tapings in St. John's.

I was asked to drive three of them back to their hotel after the evening's special reception held in their honour at Murray's Pond Country Club. As I drove through town, they were making small talk about their screech. I must say the conversation was quite interesting.

Perhaps their true feelings were shown when after they left the vehicle to check into Hotel Newfoundland, they left behind their "Honorary Newfoundlanders" certificates on the seat. Did they just forget them or were the silly documents just another waste of good paper to them? I know my answer to that and I am sure you do too. "Honorary Newfoundlanders"- they couldn't care less.

Just ignorance

Newfoundland is a unique part of Canada. But often we are not treated with respect by many who (a) were perhaps never on our soil and (b) who haven't a clue about us. For example I met a woman from Quebec recently who, when told we were from Newfoundland said, "I don't know anything about that place, it's off Nova Scotia isn't it?"

When we replied in amazement to her ignorance, she quipped, "I thought you were talking about P.E.I."

Thinking she was only joking I shrugged it off, until I learned from the grapevine she honestly wasn't really sure where our province is located.

"You have to go out there on a ferry boat don't you?" she said to another friend of ours. Talk about adding salt to the wound.

My answer to that was zilch, nothing. I just walked away. I told this to a few of our close friends over the past winter and they really think I am making the story up. I only wish.

Rich culture

We have a rich culture and heritage. Newfoundland and Labrador has been rated "the most beautiful place in Canada". We are rich in music, art, literature, science, and educated Newfoundlanders are known far and wide for their various skills from corporations worldwide to the major broadcasting industries.

Our young people are energetic, scholastically smart, courageous and talented in every facet of society. Several of our top hockey players are making a name for themselves in the NHL.

I reminded a fellow from Ontario recently how in 2010 we are far better off than his province financially and economically. He still suffers from that "upper Canadian" attitude. He replied to me; "It's about damn time Danny did something for Canada; you guys have been sucking the hind tit since you joined us in '49. Ontario looked after you guys for years and years. Now, I guess it is your turn."

Beautiful sentiments

We are considered amongst the most generous people in the world.

That feeling was well expressed in a letter to the editor from Joe Leslie of California, which appeared in The Telegram earlier this month.

After watching NBC's tribute to the people of Gander for their actions on 9/11, Leslie wrote in part:

"I was comfortably at home here in San Francisco on that horrible day while you truly wonderful people were lavishing acts of kindness and generosity upon those stranded travellers.

"During those days, you put the rest of the world to shame and we're just now learning of your warmth, your humanity, and your sacrifices."

Between the lines of Leslie's beautiful letter, I find credence for everything I am trying to express in this column.

A passionate Newfoundlander, Bill Westcott writes from Florida.

Organizations: Lakeland Centre, Gatlin Brothers, CBC Toronto hotel Pond Country Club NHL Leslie's

Geographic location: California, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Zephyrhills, Florida Quebec Nova Scotia P.E.I. New York Ireland Alberta Cape Breton Jamaica Ontario St. John's Gander San Francisco

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Recent comments

  • sightsnbytes
    February 15, 2014 - 06:35

    lighten up. as Newfoundlanders, we have the upper hand on mainlanders. While I was at a wedding this summer, they screeched in a few of the guests. A guy from Ontario looks at me and laughs. "I can't believe you guys here kiss cod fish...that is so dumb!" I looks at him and laughs. "We don't kiss cod fish, only you dumb mainlanders are stupid enough to do that!" you gotta catch them at their own game. Hooray for Newfoundlanders!

  • R ichard
    February 28, 2012 - 16:23

    I must say Bill I am with you 100% on the tern, Newfy/Newfie as being derogatory toward Newfoundlanders. I left beautiful Newfoundland when I was 13 years old. Sorry to say my Newfoundland or East Coast accent is gone, I am now in my 50s. It is because of the lack of that accent that many people here in Ontario and other places in the more than 50 countries that I have travelled to have at times put their feet in their mouths so to say! Countless times I have heard comments used to classify others that were not from NL as," stupid Newfies" as a result of doing something wrong! I always stepped in to defend my NL people and had those biggots respond that they were sorry that they had no idea that I was fron NL! They only solidify my contention that many,many others try to make our Newfoundland people appear stupid,uneducated AND BENEATH OTHERS...Next yeat I will pledge my allegiance to the American flag of the United States. I willl keep my passport if I decide at some later time that I want to give Socialism another try. My message to Canada is are not the tolerant country that you pat yourself on the back for being. Look how you treat and belittle your own citizens. At least in the USA, everyone is American and proud of it! A proud Newfoundlander!

  • Brad
    July 06, 2010 - 16:47

    Part of us being Newfoundlanders, is our sense of humor, the ability to laugh at ourselves and the ability to turn an insult into a joke. You may wanna loosen the suspenders there Bill, as you are being a little uptight. We got ourselves through some hard times by laughing at ourselves. I just laugh at the fact that the majority of these people who refer to us as goofy newfies are very uneducated when it comes to our way of life. I work with a guy from B.C. that didn't even know that Newfoundland was an island. So there is plenty of ignorance in this world, but you just gotta use your Newfy humor and grin and bear it.

  • Robert
    July 06, 2010 - 16:47

    For God's sake Bill, lighten up. I personally don't like the word Newfie, buit I'm also smart enough to know when it's being used in a condescending tone and it is then that I will correct someone - and even then I will do it with a degree of composure.
    That said, however, you might want to go checking your rum facts as you are clearly not much of an expert. I detest screech-ins but it has nothing to do with the quality of the drink. Surely a quick internet search would have told you that Screech is anything but the underdeevloped swish you labelled it. It is actually quite a celebrated rum having won the gold medal for taste at the 2003 international rum festival. Being a major rum lover, I would compare Screech to some of the seven to 10 year old rums on the market, only with a lighter flavour and distinct, but not harsh, taste.

  • Debbie
    July 06, 2010 - 16:47

    Mr Westcott,
    I'm sorry to upset you ,when you are sitting on a nice patio over looking beautiful beaches of Florida . But sir you are the one putting Newfoundland down.How is it that you write for a Newfie paper and spend the money you get in America.We are proud when someone looks at us and ask ,tell me a joke ,when you do and it is followed by a nice talk and sometimes friendships that last a lifetime.I'm sorry sir you have had a bad life it seems with this issue but speak for yourself.we who laugh and tell these jokes are PROUD NEWIES,yes I said it, my dear sir grow up and accept your ashamed your one.

  • CFA
    July 06, 2010 - 16:47

    Firstly Bill, a CFA is a Newfoundlander who has 'COME from away;' or to put it another way, someone who has CHOSEN to live in Newfoundland and Labrador. You, however, refer to people who have never lived here (Mainlanders as some call them (PEIers tend to be carelessly lumped in with them for some reason)) and are not, by definition, CFAs.

    Yes, there are ignorant people everywhere, even here, who have no understanding or desire to be aware of other cultures and, yet, somehow feel that they have the right to pass judgement. If you think Newfoundlanders have it bad, ask a Canadian Muslim immigrant how much respect they get and whether they have been recipients of unfair assumptions of their homeland.

    Having lived in Toronto most of my life (any assumptions about me yet?) the vast majority of people I know are progressive and have had nothing but good things to say about Newfoundland and sympathise with the issues we face. Yes, I've heard some stupid things said about people who make assumptions and accept stereotypes about Newfoundlanders, but by the same token, I've met Newfoundlanders who have made insulting assumptions about Toronto -- based on generalisations and stereotypes. And you, Bill, have adopted the same small-mildness by promoting the same generalisations (Upper Canadian attitude?) and stereotypes for which you criticise others.

  • Andy
    July 06, 2010 - 16:47

    Hey Bill, Andy Cooney here. Thank you for making me aware of this. I was only trying to encourage a smile... I will throw that terminology out of my vocabulary. Chalk it up to pure ignorance. Thank you so much for coming to the concert. It was great meeting you guys. Come on... Help me get a gig in Newfoundland!!!!

  • Andy
    July 06, 2010 - 16:47

    Hey Bill,
    Andy Cooney here. Thank you for making me aware of this. I promise to throw that terminology out of my vocabulary. I'm in the business of making friends, NOT enemies!!!!! I'm happy you enjoyed the show. It was great meeting you guys...